Haaretz Editorial 2 Januray 2014
Israel would be bettre off recognising the reality in Jerusalem, instead of using municipal tools to annex territory and deprive Palestinian residents.
If there were need for any additional proof of the fact that even 43 years of de facto annexation and the settlement of hundreds of thousands of Israelis in East Jerusalem haven’t managed to erase the Green Line, it was given on Wednesday.
Shortly before Jerusalem’s local Planning and Building Committee was due to begin its meeting, its members received an updated agenda, from which two items had been erased: a plan to build a nine-story yeshiva in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and a plan to build a landfill near the eastern entrance to the city at the expense of a small Bedouin shantytown.
Based on past experience, it’s safe to assume that pressure from government officials, who feared creating a diplomatic incident, is what ledto these discussions being cancelled.
The Green Line in Jerusalem reappeared on planning maps in March 2010 when, during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, the Interior Ministry announced that plans for a major construction project in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood had been approved. The U.S. administration’s harsh response led the Prime Minister’s Office to put a hold on other diplomatically sensitive plans.
It wasn’t the desire to preserve the chance of achieving a negotiated peace with the Palestinians, and certainly not the needs of residents of Sheikh Jarrah and other Palestinian neighborhoods, that motivated the decision makers. It was only the fear of another American rebuke or another European boycott threat.
Yet another proof of the Green Line’s continued existence can be seen in the statement issued by none other than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu three months ago, following the second of four planned releases of Palestinian prisoners. At that time, Netanyahu announced a “compensation package” for the right wing – or perhaps a punishment for the Palestinians – in the form of construction plans over the Green Line in Jerusalem. If Jerusalem were truly united, it wouldn’t serve either as a stick for the Palestinians or a carrot for the right.
The construction plans that Netanyahu promised to advance in conjunction with this week’s prisoner release similarly included construction in East Jerusalem – specifically, the Kedem tourist center in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan. This enormous complex, which is supposed to promote tourism, is expected to damage not only Israel’s relations with the West and the rights of local Palestinian residents, but also the unique skyline formed by the walls of the Old City.
It would be better for the Israeli authorities to recognize the diplomatic reality in Jerusalem and the existence of the city’s Palestinian residents once and for all, and to adjust their planning policies to the real needs of the city and those who live there, instead of using municipal planning as a tool for annexing territory and dispossessing its residents.
Jerusalem cancels debate on plan for new yeshiva building in Arab neighborhood
City had been pushing plan for Jewish learning center in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah despite objections from its own experts and likely opposition both internationally and at home.
The Jerusalem Municipal Planning and Building Committee decided Wednesday at the last minute to pull from the day's agenda deliberations on the construction of a nine-story structure for a yeshiva in the predominantly Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Ohr Somayach, a yeshiva that has operated in Jerusalem for decades and serves mostly newly religious students, recently submitted the plan to the city’s local Planning and Building Committee, which initially decided to put it on the agenda despite objections from some of the city’s own employees who say the plan would not serve the area’s local population.
The building is planned for an empty lot, most of which belongs to the Israel Lands Authority, and is located behind a neighborhood gas station. In addition to the nine stories, the new yeshiva building would also consist of three more floors underground, spanning a total of 9,615 square meters.
The city was pushing the plan even though its own department for planning policy has said, “The construction of the yeshiva in this area, which is characterized by a population with different religious characteristics and is close to hotels and the light rail line, is not the optimal use [of the property].” The plan is also likely to raise serious diplomatic opposition from the United States and other countries, which object to Israeli construction beyond the Green Line, and to draw objections from local residents.
Sheikh Jarrah has become a symbol of the Palestinian popular struggle in Jerusalem in recent years, and a flash point where local residents and left-wing activistshave protested the entry of Jewish settlers into the neighborhood and the evictions of Palestinian families from their homes. About 10 families are now waging legal battles to overturn eviction orders against them, which were issued at the request of Jewish building and land owners, mostly the heirs of residents of the neighborhood who lived there before 1948 and were forced out of their homes. After a drawn-out legal battle, the Supreme Court ruled against one of the families, giving it a year to leave the house.
Jerusalem’s local planning committee was expected during its Wednesday meeting to discuss another controversial plan for a large construction waste disposal site to be situated at the exit leading from Jerusalem toward the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. This plan would require the evacuation of a nearby small Bedouin encampment named Jadua–Kabua. A few dozen people live in the village, most of whom are residents of Israel. According to the plan, the disposal site would operate for 20 years and fill a large stream bed with building waste and dirt from Jerusalem and the region. After those two decades, the area will be landscaped and a park built on the site.
Yosef (Pepe) Alalu, a member of the Jerusalem city council from left-wing party Meretz, responded to the plan, saying the local planning committee and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat are doing everything to undermine thepeace efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is working to reach a framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Alalu called the plan a “provocation” that he said violates the understanding that Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem would remain in Israel in the event of a deal, while the Arab neighborhoods would become part of the Palestinian state when it is established. Alalo also criticized the planned waste site, saying that the Palestinian neighborhoods only come to city officials’ minds when they need to build a garbage dump.